A mother-of-four who killed her abusive husband who pimped her out to truck drivers collapsed in court today after a senior French prosecutor said she should not go to prison if she is found guilty of murder.
Valérie Bacot, 40, has admitted to killing Daniel Polette, who was 25 years her senior and who had made her life hell. She faces life in a cell if convicted of his murder.
She admitted killing him using a weapon he kept in the family people carrier, but said she only did it because he regularly beat and raped her, and forced her into prostitution.
‘I wanted to save me and my children,’ Bacot told the Saône-et-Loire Assizes Court in Châlons-sur-Saône, France.
And in dramatic scenes on Friday morning, the fifth day of the murder trial, Advocate General Eric Jallet said the defendant ‘should not return to prison’.
He instead said that if Bacot is found guilty by a jury she should be punished with five years in prison, with four suspended.
She has already spent a year on remand, meaning she would be freed immediately.
Valérie Bacot, 40, (pictured arriving in court today) has admitted to killing Daniel Polette, who was 25 years her senior and who had made her life hell. She faces life in a cell if convicted of his murder
‘You must take into account the personality of the accused, Valérie Bacot – a victim all her life,’ said Mr Jallet.
He told the jury: ‘So any sentence you decide should be reduced, scaled down.
‘The whole question you will have to ask yourself is this: does Valerie Bacot have to go back to prison? Obviously not. She has already served one year in pre-trial detention.’
Mr Jallet said: ‘Premeditated murder is by no means self-defense. It is a willingness to kill, premeditated, in a context of domestic violence. This court must apply the law.
‘But there are different things to take into account. The fact that she is beaten for so long, that she wanted to survive.’
On hearing the dramatic words from Mr Jallet, an overcome Bacot suffered an illness, and her lawyers demanded an adjournment.
Medical staff arrive after accused Valerie Bacot felt unwell inside the courtroom at the Chalon-sur-Saone Courthouse today
On March 13, 2016, Bacot shot Polette (pictured) – then aged 61 – in the back of the neck with his gun after, she claims, he threatened to prostitute their 14-year-old daughter
The case has fuelled a nationwide debate in France about conjugal violence, and whether victims should be allowed to take the law into their own hands.
Close to a million people have now signed a petition demanding the charges against Bacot are dropped.
Polette, a lorry driver, was 61 at the time of his death on March 13 2016, when he died from a single bullet wound to the neck.
He was originally the lover of Bacot’s mother, and first raped Bacot when she was just 12, the court heard.
Polette was jailed for sexually abusing Bacot when she was 14 but was released after less than three years in jail and moved back in with her and her mother, Joëlle.
Bacot then became pregnant with Polette’s child when she was 17 and then married him and had three more children with him.
After Bacot first became pregnant, her mother threw the couple out, and they married in 2008.
Polette then arranged for Bacot to start sleeping with other men for money.
Bacot, now aged 40, says Polette began abusing her aged 12 when he was her stepfather – but later forced her into marriage and had four children with her
Bacot has admitted killing Polette, but in self-defence as he forced her to prostitute herself in the Peugeot People Carrier, close to their home in Saône-et-Loire.
Bacot says she shot Polette in the heat of the moment after also being abused by a client.
The case also became a huge talking point when Bacot started a book about her ordeal in October 2018 – while she was on bail and awaiting trial.
In it, she described the violence and humiliation she suffered during her 25 years with Polette.
The book, Everyone Knew (Tout le monde savait,) was published last month, and immediately became a bestseller.
Journalists wait outside the courtroom in Chalon-sur-Saone, France, where Bacot is standing trial for Polette’s murder
Promotion included a television interview of Bacot watched by some 4.5 million people.
She was compared to Jacqueline Sauvage, who was sentenced to ten years in 2012 for shooting dead her abusive husband, who she claimed had driven their son to suicide.
François Hollande, then the President of France, later gave Sauvage a full pardon.
Bacot is being defended by the same two lawyers who represented Sauvage, and they are using the case to highlight failings in social services.
Janine Bonaggiunta, one of the barristers, said: ‘The justice system remains too slow, not reactive enough and is not tough enough against conjugal violence.It is this that can lead a desperate woman to kill in order to survive.’
The trial verdict is expected to be handed down on Friday evening.